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Nuts and Cholesterol
We've known for a while that nuts are great for you, and not just because eating nuts in place of other snacks won't result in weight gain. There are many studies on the effects of eating many different nuts on cholesterol levels.


 

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Peanuts also great snacks



A couple of weeks ago I reported on a study on nuts as snacks. That research was testing the theory that those who snack on nuts tended to reduce their food intake later in the day in order to at least partially compensate for the number of calories in nuts. Instead, they found that those who snacked on nuts, instead of an equal number of calories in the form of chocolate or potato chips, improved their cholesterol scores but compensated for the additional calories in much the same amount as those who ate other snacks.

It appears as though there will need to be even more research on the issue, as a recent article in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism appears to find the opposite - at least with regard to peanuts (technically legumes and not nuts, however) ( doi: 10.1155/2011/928352).

An international group of researchers recruited just over 100 men and women between the ages of 18 and 50 and in good health, whose weight was currently stable, not taking medications and who were not allergic to peanuts. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three test food groups: peanuts, snack mix, or snack mix including peanuts.

The participants ate a standard lunch, designed to provide 30% of their recommendad daily caloric intake, in the test lab on four different occasions. On the first (control) occasion they did not receive any of the test foods, but on each successive visit they received one of the test foods. Whether the test foods were given with the meal or two hours after the meal was determined randomly.

As the participants kept food diaries on the days they ate in the lab, the researchers could determine if the number of calories in the test foods were compensated for by eating less later in the day. They also could compare whether those foods were eaten with the meal, or as a snack.

They found, contrary to other research, that although the participants tended to eat the same number of calories over the course of the day regardless of which test foods they ate or when, those who snacked on peanuts (as opposed to eating them with their lunch meal) compensated for those additional calories at later meals at lower rates than those who had snack mix or snack mix with peanuts. That is, eating (for example) 300 calories worth of peanuts as an afternoon snack meant that the individual ate as much as 225 fewer calories at dinner without feeling hungry.

What this means for you

The problem with many snacks is that the additional calories they contain are NOT compensated for by eating less at later meals. This doesn't seem to be the case with peanuts. This makes peanuts (and nuts) still your best choice for between-meal snacks: not only will they help improve your cholesterol scores, you'll likely end up eating nearly the same number of calories over the course of the day while avoiding that afternoon case of the hungries.

First posted: October 19, 2011